Plant Mushroom Herb in deep, fertile soil

January 17, 2018

In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice eats pieces of magic mushroom, and right during the middle of the Knave of Hearts’ trial for purportedly stealing the Queen's tarts, she feels her body grow very large. In the plant world, this is not as far out as it seems. It seems that the Fly Agaric mushrooms do just that: they can cause micropsia/macropsia, the illusion that things around you are much larger or much smaller than they really are.

Talking dormouse or not, it seems plants are indeed curiouser and curiouser. Take the mushroom that is disguised as an herb. Instead of a darkness-growing, lumpy brown fungi, this mushroom is in fact the leafy green Rungia klossii, better known as Mushroom Herb. The leaves and young shoots really do taste like mushrooms. This bushy perennial has deep green, thick, glossy leaves with light flowers in the spring. But it really isn't the flowers but the abundant leaves you are after. They give you all the flavor of mushrooms without the need to actually grow mushrooms yourself.

The longer you cook the leaves, the stronger the mushroom flavor will be, so it is perfect for foods with a long cook time such as soups and stews. You can also use the leaves like any salad green and top sandwiches with the leaves or add them to stir-fries. Add pureed Mushroom Herb leaves to give an earthier flavor to pasta sauces.

Because it s a leafy herb, Mushroom Herb is high in chlorophyll, and a good source of protein, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and C. It is one of the most calcium-rich foods, with even more calcium than kale. And it has more protein than mushrooms.

Mushroom herb is native to tropical Papua New Guinea, so it is only hardy in USDA Zones 11 and above. Luckily, it is so fast-growing that you can treat it like an annual or pot it up and bring it indoors. Plant Mushroom Herb in deep, fertile soil after all danger of frost is past. Even though it tolerates some dryness, it does best when watered regularly. You should be able to harvest your first leaves as soon as 60 days after setting plants out. You will need to protect it from fall frosts if you want to extend the harvest season. Pick the leaves regularly, which encourages the growth of even more leaves.

You can find Mushroom Herb at nurseries or garden centers or from specialty mail-order nurseries such as Pinetree Garden Seeds ( or phone 207-926-3400; or Richters Herbs (

If you are allergic to real mushrooms or suffering from candida and thrush, plant Mushroom Herb (Rungia klossii). Because this Mushroom Herb is totally unrelated to mushrooms, there won't be the same reaction. Go ask Alice; I think she'll know.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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